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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Dr Charles Dias interview: ‘There has been no such integration… SC/ST quota was given for 10 yrs, see situation even after 70’

Dias says nomination-based representation should be in place 'till community is uplifted', contests govt numbers

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi |
May 17, 2022 10:41:47 am
Federation of Anglo-Indian Associations of India president Dr Charles Dias

The Federation of Anglo-Indian Associations of India has challenged in the Delhi High Court the Constitutional (One Hundred and Fourth Amendment), 2019, which Parliament passed in 2020. The amendment removed the nomination-based representation of the Anglo-Indian community in the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies. The federation’s president Dr Charles Dias, a former Congress-nominated member of the Lok Sabha from the Anglo-Indian community in Kerala, talks to The Indian Express about why he thinks the provision is essential.

Why was this provision important and what purpose did it serve for the Anglo-Indian community?

When India was about to get freedom, the central provision existed even then, with the first member being nominated in 1942. From that time, and even now, the community is scattered across the country. So, it is not possible for the community to have an elected representative of its own, as there will be no consolidated votes. Meanwhile, being descendants of Europeans, the community has a unique culture, language, and heritage of its own, which needs to be preserved. Without this provision, the community’s voice will completely disappear.

In its observations, the Delhi High Court has said that the Anglo-Indian community has integrated with the Indian population over the past 70 years and so the purpose of the provision has been served. Isn’t the provision now redundant?

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There has been no such integration, as has been suggested, with the community remaining distinct. Initially, the provision for the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes was also given for 10 years, with the expectation that these communities will be uplifted in that period. But see what the situation is even after 70 years – they continue to be sidelined and denied their due. Not even 10 per cent of the SC-ST community receives jobs despite 30 years of the implementation of the Mandal Commission.

Does this mean that the provision needs to exist in perpetuity? The additional solicitor general has said that the community cannot be compared to SCs and STs because of the backwardness and social stigma the latter face.

We don’t want it forever, only till the time the community is uplifted. By virtue of our European descent, there is an incorrect perception that the community is privileged. That may have been so during the British Raj, but that has not been the case for decades. Most of the community lives at Railway centres – this is because most Anglo-Indians worked in the Railways, thereby often being called ‘the railway people’. As they retired, they continued to stay around these centres in rented accommodation, often one-room tenements and often dilapidated. Housing has been a big issue for the community. As far as the statement that we can’t be compared to SC-ST communities – what is the basis of this statement, and what statistics or data have been provided to support this?

There is a 2013 report the Minority Affairs Ministry had commissioned that found that the community was educationally and economically backward. In my state, Kerala, Anglo-Indians are classified as OBC (Other Backward Class).

There is the issue of the Census 2011 and the incorrect counting of the Anglo-Indian population that the community has raised repeatedly, including in this case. What is the issue?

According to the 2011 Census, there are 296 Anglo-Indians in India. Whereas our community is approximately four-lakh strong. There are 17 Anglo-Indian organisations from across the country affiliated with us and we carried out our own census by which we found our population to be 3,46,000. But this is under-reported as we were unable to reach out to everyone. In the Census, there is no column where Anglo-Indians can identify themselves. They are often counted amongst Christians. But we are a distinct community, defined under Article 366(2) of the Constitution, and need to be treated as such.

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